Christopher Tolkien, Architect of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, 1924-2020

Christopher Tolkien, the son of J.R.R. Tolkien who continued his father’s publishing legacy, has died, according to The Tolkien Society. He was 95.

The third son of the late epic fantasy author, Christopher was the initial audience for his father’s initial famous work, The Hobbit. While the elder Tolkien rose to international fame with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, he was also responsible for creating the massive world and backstory in which the novels were set. Following the death of his father in 1973, Christopher Tolkien was placed in charge of his massive literary estate, and began to organize his papers.

In 1977, he collected and published The Silmarillion, a work that Tolkien had intended to publish, which explored the origins of Middle-earth and set up the conflict that he explored in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In the years that followed, he continued to produce new volumes of Tolkien’s unpublished writings, releasing Unfinished Tales in 1980, the 12-volume History of Middle-earth between 1982 and 1996, and edited and completed a number of longer narratives and translations of epic poems, including The Children of Húrin (2007), The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009), The Fall of Arthur (2013), Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, (2014), Beren and Lúthien  (2017), and The Fall of Gondolin (2018).

In 2017, Tolkien stepped down as the director of the Tolkien Estate and Tolkien Trust, saying at the time that Beren and Lúthien would likely be his final book. Tolkien was a staunch critic of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of his father’s trilogy, telling Le Monde in 2012 that “They gutted the book, making it an action movie for 15-25 year-olds, and it looks like The Hobbit will be the same.” His death comes at a time when his father’s books are more popular than ever, and as Amazon works to create a massive TV series based on the works that he himself helped bring to the public.

While Tolkien was the author behind the world of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien was the one responsible for ensuring that his father’s stories remained in the public view by continuing to publish develop the backstory of the world that has influenced and inspired fans around the world.

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